I wrote this from Auroville. I was alone the whole day once during our stay there, as my travelling companion went to do her kind of stuff, things that interested her. She is a painter and wanted to draw a few sketches of her dancer friend. I decided to stay back at the guest house and do what I am learning to like doing most these days. That is learning to be with myself, on my own.
My friend left very early in the morning. I decided to sleep in a bit. Then I went up to the dining hall and sat down alone at a table with a cup of tea and freshly baked bread from the Auroville Bakery and generously spread butter and guava jam on two slices. Then I ate them slowly as I read ‘Long Quiet Highway’ by Natalie Goldberg and sipped tea with love. Like her Zen Master Karahiri Roshi did.
The dining hall in the guest house is really brightly lit up with natural light that flows in from large windows all around. It is a hexagonal space, one of the best to have more walls to build widows in. It is a design that always gives a sense of vastness and spaciousness to a space used for community work. I once taught in a school in New Delhi that had hexagonal class rooms and staff rooms. And it always made me cheerful. It was always well lit up with natural light. The dining hall at the guest house was so.
Through the large windows one can look out into foliage that is miraculously green and fertile. Tall coconut trees danced gently with the strong wind that was blowing that day. The sky was clean blue. The other trees rustled their leaves joyfully anticipating a late Pondichery monsoon in the month of November.
As I settled down deeply with the book, a young woman walked in. She asked me if there was any coffee. So I showed her the coffee and heated it up for her. We got chatting and she told me she was from Israel and that she arrived last night from New Delhi. I was delighted and told her I too was from Delhi. She said she loved the spaciousness of Delhi and the metro rail and the clean roads. She said she loved that it was so green with large parks and old trees.
She told me how one is truly never alone. There is always someone to meet and talk to. And I agreed. Truly one is never alone. It is a myth. One could be lonely or lonesome but not alone.
After a while I went into my room and spent most of the morning reading, napping, meditating and writing my mails. I showered and went for my solitary lunch at a place nearby that served delicious crepes with a variety of fillings. I ordered a mushroom crepe and an espresso. I sat at a table under a large banyan tree whose roots were now firmly grounded, now transformed as stems, supporting the main tree. It was amazing to see roots giving birth to the same tree over and over again!
After a fulfilling lunch I walked back to the guest house and read some more. Then it was time for me to catch the daily community bus to Pondicherry. I had plans to sit at the sea front and visit the Aurobindo Ashram. As I walked out of the gate of the guest house I saw a young boy of about 16 years waiting with his motor bike. I was afraid I was running late for the bus so I spontaneously asked him if he would me kind enough to drop me off at the bus stop and he smiling agreed. I sat pillion and he rode on. When I reached the stop I offered him some money but he shyly smiled and quickly turned around and rode back.
I took the bus and got dropped off close to the French Consulate, overlooking the bay of Bengal. The sea front was a web and grid of buildings and streets designed and built by the French colonist. Roads had names which were French. I was so pleased to read names like ‘Rue de Saint Laurent’. It reminded me of the book ‘Murders on the Rue’ by Edgar Allan Poe. The roads had no traffic. They were zero traffic zones. I eagerly walked towards the cornice and was welcomed by the roaring sound of waves and salty fishy sea breeze. I chose a rock and sat there looking beyond into the sea. It was a very windy evening and the cornice was swarming with tourists and local inhabitants. I loved the huge waves that came and broke at the rocks splashing spray on my face at times. The wind blew my hair and I was so happy to be on my own.
As I was watching a purple wave carrying a school of fish and marveling at the gulls which dived in to catch their morsel for evening meal, a dear friend from Delhi called. I was pleasantly surprised to hear his voice. He asked me what the sound in the background was and I told him where I was. He called to say that he had just been reading my blog and was deeply touched by my writing and told me that my writing was positive and alive.
He and his family have been my friends for more than 15 years now we have seen each other through hard times and good times. We have danced together, drunk together, married in successions. Our children were all born in succession too. There was a time we celebrated our individual birthdays and anniversaries. Sometimes we celebrated without any reasons too. Now we meet less often than before. Life’s other serious matters keep us busier than before.
I told him how inspiring he and his brothers were to me for having worked their way into prosperity through sheer creativity and hard work. His family is the owner of the most successful yellow page online service in India, Just Dial. He told me to always know that he was always there for me when I needed help or support.
Then as I sat some more another darling friend text me to say he wished he was there with me too to enjoy the breeze and requested me to pick up some natural products from the Ashram. I tasted the salt on my lips when two hands grabbed me from behind. It was my travelling companion, she was walking with her friend and spotted me sitting. I said hello to them and told them that I now wanted to visit the Ashram. They walked on as they had other plans. I reached the Ashram gate and the board outside displayed that entry was till six pm. I was a little disappointed but nevertheless told myself that I would do this again tomorrow. As I was standing there and thinking this, the gatekeeper asked me “how long do you think it will take you inside?” I jumped with joy and said maybe 10 minutes. He ushered me to go right in. I took off my shoes on the racks across the street and walked in. I paid my silent homage to the Samadhi of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and sat in silence for a while. I felt so blessed and peaceful at the way the day was unfolding.
As I was looking at some of the notices that were pinned to the boards, my friend walked in to say that they would like to have dinner together with me. So I walked out and got into their car and walked into this beautiful old restored French colonial building. Dined with wine, prawns and candle light at a table placed in a courtyard with large trees in the middle. Sharing of insights and experiences with Kartikeyan and Ashiwini, the two most amazingly wonderful couple I met this time in Auroville. Karthikeyan is a film-maker and Ashiwini a dancer and painter. They treated us to the amazing dinner that evening.
Then they dropped us back to the guest house. I sat up on the terrace smoked a Goldflake and smiled at the fire flies dancing on a stage of starry night with the moon in the Aurovillian sky that did into have any intention of getting smaller this time after the full moon four days back.
I was grateful that I was alive and love surrounded me in subtle and loud ways.